Coronavirus: 17,656 cases reported and 40 further deaths notified

Delta variant accounts for ‘bulk’ of Covid-19 patients in ICU, says Micheál Martin

The “bulk” of people in intensive care with Covid-19 are carrying the Delta variant of the virus, the Taoiseach has said, while signalling that no “major” new public health measures are expected this week.

Speaking after Cabinet today, Mr Martin told reporters that he had been told by the HSE and clinicians in the health service that it was too early to make a full assessment of the impact of the Omicron variant, which appears to produce milder symptoms, on ICU admissions.

However, he said: “In terms of the ICUs, it still seems that the bulk of the ICU cases are Delta cases. They’re complex, severe illness in many cases, and that is the feedback I’ve received from the HSE clinicians”. He said medics had told him that those unvaccinated in ICU “invariably” were telling medical teams caring for them that they regret not getting the vaccine.

According to figures supplied by HSE chief executive Paul Reid to Mr Martin on Wednesday morning, 54 per cent of those in intensive care are from the small percentage of the population who are still unvaccinated.


“That’s a very high figure, that’s about five per cent of the population [causing] 54 per cent of ICUs,” Mr Martin said.

On Wednesday, a further 17,656 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State. A further 40 deaths were notified in the last week.

As of 8am on Wednesday, 928 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, up 44 in the past 24 hours. There were 94 in ICU, an increase of four on Tuesday’s figures.

On the impact of the Omicron variant on hospitals, Mr Martin said they were under pressure, and that a clearer picture should emerge in the coming days on the impact of the variant on ICU admissions.

“They’re saying it’s different but they’re still saying it’s too early to say and it’s too early to be definitive about the connection between Omicron and admissions to ICUs. Definitely, the hospitalisations are increasing, we’re close to 1,000 now, so it remains to be seen the degree to which that will impact on ICUs. That’s something that remains to be confirmed or needs assessment for the next 10 days.”

While he said he did not want to pre-empt advice on public health restrictions to be considered by health officials on Thursday, the Taoiseach did indicate that the likely path was “steady as she goes”.

“We don’t anticipate any major changes to the current set of restrictions,” he said. “The people have been fantastic, they have really responded, and I think we just need to keep with this over the next number of weeks, it will be a challenging number of weeks but to protect people, society, economy, these range of measures are what will do it.”

“It seems the overall picture right now is the current set of restrictions that had been in place are effective, it remains to be seen if public health want to advise any further in relation to that but the indications are that it will be steady as she goes.” Nonetheless, he inidcated that he expects Covid-19 case numbers to continue to grow before peaking.

He pushed back against suggestions that public statements by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, advising against household mixing, risked undermining Government policy, which is that limited mixing of up to four households can take place.

“The CMO hasn’t gone out to undermine the Government’s position, he was very clear on that yesterday with me, and we discussed and reviewed the situation over time. He was concerned about New Year’s Eve in particular, because last year it would have been a super-spreader event”. However, he conceded that he could “see the challenges” for people in interpreting what could be seen as contradictory advice.

Asked about changes to rules for the isolation of close contacts as part of an effort to keep the workforce available, he said public health chiefs were conscious of the impact restrictions have on society, but that “the key call here is not to do something too quickly that could accelerate even further the exponential growth of the virus”.

With the virus still driving rapid growth in case numbers, he said: “That is why all these issues around close contacts and so on have to be kept under review because the balance is you don’t want to take decisions that accelerate the further spread particularly when we are witnessing continuing increased levels.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times